- By RICH ANDREW
- Photos By THE BROAD
Fade into the kaleidoscope of Yayoi Kusama. To experience her art is to enter her mind, and to enter her mind is to be enraptured by the unimaginable. The quintessential tortured artist, Kusama creates art as a way of coping with hallucinations that have plagued her since her abusive childhood. For the past forty years, she has lived of her own free will in a psychiatric hospital, a sanctuary of sorts where she can let out her mental delirium, take hold of its awesome power, and allow it to intrinsically shape her work. Kusama’s art is a dreamscape of space and shape — a personal reverie of neuroses, of pain, of release — of infinity.
What she perceives inside these hallucinations is a distorted version of her experiences in the world — a breakdown of boundaries, which she manifests throughout her work with her fetishization of polka dots. Whether these dots are an allusion to the macro wonders of the universe or an illusion of the micro essences of her own identity, to obliterate herself — particle by particle, polka dot by polka dot — into specks of dust scattered across space-time is to set herself free. For Yayoi Kusama, polka dots are her portal to infinity. It started in the 1950s with a series of massive canvases that Kusama would coat with tiny brush strokes. As these diminutive moves multiplied, they stunned the eye with a self-perpetuating vastness. Known as her Infinity Nets, these minimalist paintings acted as the impetus for what would inevitably evolve into her Infinity Mirrors.
The Broad Museum is proud to host an installation of six of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms. Also on display are significant sculptures, paintings, and works on paper that not only span Kusama’s entire career but trace her graphic and tumultuous love affair with forever. To set foot inside Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms is to know the unknowable realm and to contemplate your own insignificance by comparison. Bound not by canvas edge or frame but by the reflective magic of the mirror, these rooms become truly boundless. They exist in a paradox of inarticulate bliss — both a play on verisimilitude and yet a master class in abstraction — the perfect requiem for a dream.
With hanging lights as stars, The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013) casts you into the cosmic stretches of a universe all your own, somehow surpassing the room’s three dimensional constraints all for one brief touch of heaven. Dots Obsession — Love Transformed into Dots (2007) delights with fuchsia balloons, both big and bigger, splattered with dots, dots, and even more dots. You can wade through a mottled meadow of poppied tentacles in Phalli’s Field (1965/2016) or frolic through miles of glowing golden pumpkins in All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016). Two peepholes invite you and another to lean inside Love Forever (1966/1994) and gaze into your lover’s soul as your faces forever collide into oblivion. Remember loved ones lost in a recreation of toro nagashi in Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity (2009) while all around you lanterns flicker and float down invisible rivers, drifting along the consuming darkness until they vanish with a glimmer of the afterlife.
The grand culmination of Kusama’s installation is by far her pièce de résistance The Obliteration Room (2002/Present). Familiar in feel and paramount in theme, this room is staged like a domestic space from couches and chairs to tables and shelves, everything down to the kitchen sink — with one stark deviation. Each piece of furniture is cast in white, devoid of color, devoid of life. And although The Obliteration Room may start out as a blank canvas, Kusama invites you on her lifelong quest to coat every surface with colored stickers in any spot your heart desires. So by the end of the installation’s run at the Broad, the room itself will be obliterated, its familiar identity taken apart — particle by particle, polka dot by polka dot — purely in an effort to set you free.
Like a Tardis of science fiction born into science fact, outside these Infinity Mirror Rooms may be small — but inside, they expand into the immeasurable, they philosophize an alternate reality, and finally freed from inside Kusama’s mental madness, they make perfect sense.
The installation runs through January 1st at The Broad Museum. To get tickets, click here. Don’t miss it!